We were getting ready for dinner last night when the lights went off. I don’t remember the last time there was power outage in the city. I waited for ten minutes before gathering all my decorative scented candles to light for dinner. The children were excited to see the candles play a significant role in our household (other than to make the house smell like vanilla).
Over dinner I shared with the children how it is very common to have blackouts in Manila. Not because of some accident (after the power went off, we heard emergency vehicles going down the street), but because it was necessary.
My son was baffled that power in the Philippines could be just switched off without reason. I explained that there was a reason–to conserve the energy of which we have very limited supply. He listened for a moment as my husband tried to explain to him in simple terms how electricity is powered by oil, and how oil costs money, and how as a natural resource oil’s supply is limited. I don’t know how much of the information he was able to retain though.
After dinner, my husband and children took out their small tents and set them up in the salas (living room). They pretended to be in the great outdoors and camping. They couldn’t be happier using their light sabers and flashlights in this game.
Then the kids decided to mount a show for us. They re-enacted an episode from the Avatar: The Last Airbender, a cartoon that the whole family avidly watches. When that was over, the kids pretended to be us—the scene was how we (my husband and I) respond to them when they refuse to go to bed. They role-played me threatening them with cancelling a play date if they didn’t go to bed. Yup, that’s what I do if they are still giggling an hour after they are supposed to be asleep.
The whole performance set my husband and I back 50 cents. The kids had so much fun mounting the play in the dark that they thought it would be a good idea to turn off the lights regularly after dinner.
When I was in Manila last December, just as the priest was giving his final blessings during the Christmas Midnight Mass the whole church went dark. The power was still out when we got home, so we lit my mom’s menorah-like candelabra. The whole family– siblings, cousins, nieces and nephews gathered around the dining table for noche buena (Christmas Eve dinner) to eat, talk, and reconnect. And thanks to the glow of 14 candles, we were able tell apart ham from morcon, and tamales from suman.
Even in darkness, there is always something to be thankful for.